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Sentiment at Highland hearing favors anti-fracking law

May 5, 2012

ELDRED, NY - Public comments leaned almost three to one in favor of the Town of Highland's Local Law#3, a zoning amendment that would ban high-impact industrial uses including horizontal hydrofracking in the town, at a public hearing held at the Eldred Junior/Senior High School on Friday, May 4.

What appeared to be at least two hundred people, mostly town residents but also some from the wider region, showed up for the hearing, and over 80 spoke. Apart from a brief bout of heckling early in the comment period, quickly squelched by Superintendent Andy Boyar, the meeting proceeded in a civil manner.

Law #3 has been in the works for some time, and had experienced plain sailing in terms of public support until last month's town board meeting, when a number of landowners voiced complaints. In particular, members of some hunting clubs said that they feel they should be able to retain the right to lease their land for drilling.

Hunting club members again spoke in opposition to the law Friday night, along with some others including two young men who had grown up in the town and found employment in the drilling industry in Pennsylvania. Also speaking in opposition was town council member Frederick Bosch. Negative comments, however, were significantly outnumbered by those supporting passage of the law.

Prior to the public comments, Boyar answered an audience question as to the process by which the law would be adopted or voted down by saying that the board's decision would largely be guided by what they heard that night, as well as by the comments submitted in writing.

The town clerk reported that 90 written comments had been received before the hearing. Comments will continue to be accepted by email or hard copy until May 14.

To submit comments on Local Law #3
Comments will be accepted until May 14. Visit the clerk’s office at 4 Proctor Rd. in Eldred, NY or visit for details.

Mortgage denied in Western PA

“Brian and Amy Smith seem to be the first example in western Pennsylvania of a homeowner being denied a mortgage because of gas drilling on a next-door neighbor’s property. The drilling goes on day and night at a new Marcellus Shale well in Daisytown, Washington County,”

What are tax assessments (land) based upon?

This article states that some members of hunting clubs made comments against this proposed local law #3, saying they feel they should be able to retain their right to lease for this heavy industrial activity, this under regulated, contaminating, shale gas extraction.

I find this of interest on several grounds, two of which, are that the members of the clubs are most often not residents, or homeowners, of that Township where the hunting property is.

The second, is that the rate of tax assessment is astronomically unjust, with the terrible bias going against the property owners who actually reside in the community.

I'll give one example in Berlin Township, PA, not far from Highland, NY. One hunting club is listed in the public tax records for Wayne County as having approximately 566 acres, and as being assessed for that acreage at $63,000. That assessment averages just above $111 per acre. That is not a mistake, $111 per acre.

A neighbor, who's land virtually abuts the club's land, has a house on one acre, then, an adjacent acre (separate tax lot, separate control #) with no dwelling (just vacant land). The tax assessment for those two acres is a whopping $45,400. The one acre, which, again, is vacant land, and a separate control #, is assessed at #17,100. On the acre with the house, the land is assessed at $28,300 (the house, of course, is assessed separately, on top of those figures).

That homeowner, who owns one adjacent acre of vacant land, is paying the equivalent to the hunting club's 154 acres of vacant land. Overall, for two acres of land, the homeowner is paying the equivalent assessment of 409 acres of the hunting land. When you add the assessment of the neighbor's house into the equation, that person is paying at nearly triple the hunting club's assessment.

The hunting club in the article wants to be able to lease their property, against the wishes of the vast majority of residents in Highland, who would have to live next to, and within, the immediate and long term impacts of such contaminating industry, and who pay the overwhelming amount of taxes in the Township?